Waterfront Corporation, city streets department to conduct Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard traffic study

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and the city streets department have set out to determine how traffic woes on Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard can best be fixed – all while reducing road width in some areas.

In conjunction with PennDOT, DRWC and streets have launched a traffic study with consultant Whitman, Requardt & Associates, said DRWC Director of Planning Sarah Thorp, who is also overseeing the creation of the broad, long range plan for improving the stretch of waterfront from Oregon to Allegheny avenues for the DRWC.

Thorp and the streets department worked together to set the parameters of the study. DRWC is covering the $100,000 cost through a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

One part of the project will result in action relatively soon: The retiming of traffic signals. “Everybody knows the timing is off,” Thorp said. “You’ll be sitting at a red light, and the one in front of you is green. Then yours turns green, and the one ahead turns red.”

The city will do the retiming, Thorp said.

By the end of December,  a completed written report with recommendations on how best to alleviate traffic trouble spots, make problem intersections safer for pedestrians, and reduce the size of the roadway, roughly between Washington and Spring Garden, to make room for the multi-purpose trail along the east side. It may be possible that in some sections, one of the three driving lanes and the parking lane can be combined, Thorp said, because the roadway may have extra capacity.

In other areas, at certain times, the road is right now choked with existing traffic, she said. “At the southern end, on weekends, there is really heavy traffic to the shopping areas, such as Ikea, Home Depot and Walmart,” Thorp said. “The road is over-capacity at those times, and we need to make changes down there, too.”

The changes can’t include additional lanes, Thorp said, because there is no room. Possibilities could include signal changes or the diversion of traffic onto other streets, she said.

Thorp knows traffic studies have been done before, and the public – perhaps especially residents of South Philadelphia – has been dubious of their findings. This, she said Monday, is different.

“A lot of other traffic studies were done for developers, and were done to show a development would have no impact on traffic,” she said.  “This is being done by a public agency. We want to improve traffic on Columbus Boulevard. We are not trying to promote a certain kind of development. We are studying the conditions, figuring out how to improve them, and then making recommendations to implement them.”

Thorp and traffic study Project Manager Jeff Riegner, of Whitman, Requardt & Associates, will detail methodology of the study at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26 at DRWC’s 121 N. Columbus offices.  This will include what intersections are being studied and when and how often the counts will be taken. The traffic study team will also seek input from residents on which spots on the boulevard/avenue are the most troublesome and why.

People who drive the roadway regularly experience very persistent traffic problems and can provide really good information that can be used during the analysis, Thorp said.

The study will focus on major intersections – those with traffic lights – along the entire length of the Central Delaware. 

The traffic study is looking at the highway along the entire length of the Central Delaware, Thorp said.  Traffic counts are being done over the next several weeks at many of those intersections with traffic lights. A new count will not be done where another public agency has done traffic counts within the last two or so years, Thorp said.

The consultant is also gathering accident data by intersection, Thorp said. Possible fixes in those spots include changing the grade of the intersection or changing the signage.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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